Minggu, 06 Mei 2012

Fukuyama on Socialism

Francis Fukuyama became very famous (some might say notorious) with reviving of the old Hegelian thesis of the End of History via the interpretation of the prominent Hegelian scholar Alexandre Kojeve. Fukuyama's chief work The End of History and the Last Man (1992)restates and advances his views that democracy has proved to be the best regime in an article by the same name which was written for the journal National Interest in 1989 and can be found here.

With the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 has become the most significant symbol that Liberal democracy prevailed in the Cold War against its archrival ideology - Soviet socialism, thus making it the supreme political ideology and ultimately ending the historical debate."The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism." (Fukuyama 1989:1) On the other hand no substantially better political organisation could be conceived. Historically liberal democracy has its little room for improvement. While it is true that in the earlier years of democracy women and workers were not allowed to vote this was an imperfection that could and eventually was readjusted.

Following this line of reasoning one should detect the end of history earlier. Fukuyama-Kojeve go back to the battle of Jena of 1806 pinpointing that event as the official watershed when history was decided. In this battle the victorious armies of Napoleon bringing the ideas of the French revolution defeat the monarchical Prussian forces which are an allegory of the old regime.

In his book Fukuyama advances also another idea. Following Hegel and contra Marx he gives precedence of ideas over materialism. Furthermore Fukuyama emphasizes on the role of what he interprets to be the Platonic "thymos" or the Hegelian search for recognition. Humans are not driven by mere animal instincts or search for material riches. There is something more. Human beings are driven by the desire to be recognized by others. Only humans could enter into battles of life and death merely for the sake to be recognized. The quest for recognition is at the heart of Hegelian Master-slave dialectic.

In this short blogpost I wanted however to share Fukuyama's views on socialism in a short excerpt from the chapter named "A vacation in Bulgaria" pp 168-9:

As Havel puts it,

The essential aims of life are present naturally in every person. In everyone there is some longing for humanity's rightful dignity, for moral integrity, for free expression of being and a sense of transcendence over the world of existences.

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On the other hand, Havel notes that "each person is capable, to a greater or lesser degree, of coming to terms with living within the lie." His condemnation of the post-totalitarian communist state revolves around the damage that communism has done to people's moral character, to their belief in their capacity to act as
moral agents-the greengrocer's absent sense of dignity when he agrees to put up the sign "Workers of the World, Unite! " Dignity and its opposite, humiliation, are the two most common words used by Havel in describing life in communist Czechoslovakia.

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Communism humiliated ordinary people by forcing them to make a myriad of petty, and sometimes not so petty, moral compromises with their better natures. These took the form of putting upa sign in one's store window, or signing a petition denouncing a colleague for doing something the state did not like, or simply
remaining silent when that colleague was unjustly persecuted. The seedy post-totalitarian states of the Brezhnev era tried to make everybody morally complicit not through terror but, ironically
enough, by dangling before them the fruits of modern consumer culture. These were not the spectacular baubles that fueled the greed of the American investment banker of the 1980s, but small things like a refrigerator, a bigger apartment, or a vacation in Bulgaria, which loomed large to people with few material possessions.
Communism, in a much more thoroughgoing way than "bourgeois" liberalism, fortified the desiring part of the soul against the thymotic part. Havel's charge against communism is not at all that it failed in its promise to deliver the material plenty of industrial efficiency, or that it disappointed the hopes of the working class or the poor for a better life. On the contrary, it did offer them these things in a Faustian bargain, requiring them to
compromise their moral worth in return. And in making this bargain, the victims of the system became its perpetuators, while the system itself took on a life of its own independently of anyone's desire to participate in it.

Fukuyama (1992: 168-9)

Fukuyama. F., 1989. “The End of History?” The National Interest, Summer 1989 http://www.kropfpolisci.com/exceptionalism.fukuyama.pdf

Fukuyama. F., 1992. The End of History and the Last Man New York: The Free Press.

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